[WoW] A first look at the firelands


With thanks to my guild for letting me tag along on an exploratory raid, here are some screenies from the new WoW raid instance. Blizzard have always liked to use strong colour schemes for their zones and as you can see, the firelands is all red and black.

Another thing you’ll notice on zoning in is that you aren’t in caves, there are no corridors, and you can see the horizon out there in the distance somewhere. This is an ‘outdoor’ raid instance and it feels roomy.

And the last thing is … there’s a lot of trash.


You can see some buildings in the background here, and pools of lava and  — oh yes – more trash mobs.

I might be the only person who doesn’t really have an issue with this. If only because the whole place is so wonderfully reminiscent of Molten Core whilst still being different. In fact, one of the consummate experiences of MC back in the day was zoning in and seeing two molten giants guarding the entrance bridge. (And probably wiping to them on the first pull.) If you look at the top screenshot here, you’ll see one of the same molten giants trundling along in the distance.

The trash mobs need to be pulled fairly carefully, at least at our gear levels, and I can’t remember the last raid instance where I would have said this. There’s scope for crowd control also. Spinny turtles (sadly forgot to take screenshots of those) are almost as amusing as the Ulduar snowpiles/ jumping snakes.

I kept thinking how fun it would be to try to run speed raids through the place in a few months time when people are more geared and able to handle crazier pulls. And again, that brings back memories of Molten Core for me.


Not sure how well the spider webs in this screenshot came out, but anyhow it’s been at least two weeks since we last had to kill spiders so naturally the firelands has a spider boss.

We did fight our way up to her but I forgot to take a picture of that. She’s a HUGE spider who you first see hanging from her web. My desire to go tank that was about nil.

We did however have a few shots at Shannox, a boss who appears and starts patrolling once you have killed enough trash packs to trigger him. It seemed like a fun fight with plenty for everyone to do.


Haven’t shown any pictures of rivers of lava yet so there’s one right here. In our exploration, we also discovered some kind of gauntlet up a hill with a big named fire elemental at the top.

Oh and the trash packs here do occasionally drop epic loot and (allegedly) recipes. Plus there’s the usual raid reputation which you can raise from killing mobs in this zone, leading to large numbers of PUG trash clearing raids.

Amusingly, I don’t think fire resistance gear is required for the firelands; well at least that’s one way in which it differs from MC. My general impressions were good. It looks fun, it looks cool, the encounters I saw (which were limited, admittedly) looked well put together. Naturally hardcore guilds have already killed 5 out of the 7 bosses on hard mode – they’re going to be fairly bored for the next few months unless Ragnaros #2 is crazily hard.

Transferable skills: Raiding in LOTRO

bg_lin1 Note: I am going to be discussing raiding as it is now on EU servers. We don’t yet have the latest F2P patch with the associated rules changes, new content, and so on. We don’t yet have a date for it either.

I now have enough radiance on my gear to be able to set foot into Barad Guldur (BG), which is the big Mirkwood raid instance. It is a change of pace from Moria with more animated suits of armour and fewer mushrooms; but there are still plenty of orcs. The end boss is (dah dah DAH) a Nazgul, and I’m not sure what happens if you kill it but if we find out I’ll let you know.

Me being there at all is only possible because of an infinitely patient raid group which is also in need of warm bodies. I have in fact given up trying to understand how raiding works in my kinship. They are all very nice, but I feel as though the newbie raid group threw radiance gear at me and now  don’t seem concerned whether I raid with them (I have always assumed previously that good raid etiquette was to raid with the guys who geared you). So I’m thrown in with the big boys and girls, into proper LOTRO progression raiding! They have all been remarkably nice about having a noob on board.

So how does LOTRO raiding compare with WoW raiding

Raiding in LOTRO reminds me a lot of raiding in the later raids of vanilla WoW. Obviously we don’t have 40 people, these are 12 man raids, but there are several similarities:

  • Trash mobs need some strategy. The pulls are carefully planned, tanks allocated to mobs, kill order required and use of raid marks and assists widely used.
  • Endurance boss fights. The LOTRO designers like longish boss fights so typically, once you have figured out what to do, your raid has to continue to do it flawlessly for several minutes.
  • There is plenty of movement and interaction in the actual boss fights. This is why I’m reminded of the end of AQ40 or parts of Naxx40, rather than earlier instances. The end boss of BG in particular is an extremely demanding fight which gets significantly harder if even one person dies.
  • Lots of abbreviations. This is probably standard for any MMO, but the LOTRO raids have abbreviations for the different instances, different bosses, different class abilities and talents (I fled to the net when someone gave me advice on how to spec so that I could decode it) and people will expect you to know them if they are mentioned mid fight.
  • The designers aren’t concerned about making fights that favour either melee or ranged to a great extent. But melee seem to get the shaft more often. Maybe this is inevitable in boss fight design but it does my head in to be standing and just watching an entire phase of a boss fight without being able to do anything.

The picture in the screenshot above is a trash fight in Barad Guldur. In this one, the raid pulls a group of wights. Each wight will focus on one player for a set amount of time (20s or so) and follow them around before switching to someone else. So the goal is for everyone to run away from their wights whilst killing everyone elses’.

If this sounds like mad fun, it is. And as an extra spice, imagine a UI which doesn’t announce who is being followed. You just have to keep an eye open.

Here’s some ways in which LOTRO raiding really struck me as different from WoW:

  • It takes a long time to recover between wipes. Between death debuffs (which can be removed) and time to run back into the instance, it’s not unusual to have only 3-4 tries at a boss in a session. Admittedly, we don’t raid long stretches of time, but it’s still very different from a WoW setup. This does however give people much more time to chat.
  • Repair bills hurt. LOTRO allows tokens from daily quests to buy potions and consumables but those repair bills can be fairly pricey. I’m not entirely sure how people make loads of cash in the game but I think I’d be farming a lot if I was raiding more heavily.
  • No boss mods. This is the big one, you have to actually pay attention to spell effects and boss shouts to figure out what’s going on. People are great about calling effects on voice chat but what you will not have are big wodges of text in the middle of the screen telling you exactly what to do.
  • Limited information. This is probably not such an issue now because BG has been live for at least a year, so there are plenty of websites where you can find out about the fights. But it is still a game in which each raid group has to figure things out for themselves. I do feel for the more hardcore EU raiders, because that will all have been done in the new raids by the time we get the content patch.

So does being a raider in one game transfer to the next?

The answer to this is yes and no. The only reason I’ve been able to transition so smoothly to the LOTRO raids is that I have been able to apply playing skills from other games. Once you learn what the fire looks like in the new game, you already know how to get out of it.

And when I say smoothly, I don’t mean that I’m some kind of amazing all-star. I just mean that I can follow basic instructions without wiping the raid. It’s only the lack of damage meters which mean no one can really compare performance easily.

The skills which do transfer best are situational awareness and being able to figure out what is going on in a fight by watching it (or particularly, what went wrong in a failed attempt). Those that need to be relearned are UI dependent – like watching for debuffs or checking the chat for boss shouts.

But one thing to bear in mind is that I’m playing a melee/utility class in LOTRO. I don’t have to wrestle with the default raid UI for healing, or the clever Warden/ Runekeeper mechanics. For those classes, this really is like raiding in hard mode.